How many times are you asked the seemingly simple question, “What do you want?”, and struggle to come up with an answer? I know I do often and for various reasons. Sometimes the question seems to come out of the blue and I’m not really sure what I want. Other times, the question seems to be more of a rhetorical question — asked by a person, or in a setting, that has shown over time that what I want isn’t really all that important to them. Then there are times that what I want seems so outlandish, unreasonable, even impossible, that to say it out loud may well set me up for ridicule and even failure — it’s not worth the risk to reply. Sometimes the answer is watered down because I settle with giving a compromised answer instead of the real answer to what I want.
I should probably preface this article with the statement that I don’t believe life is all about what I want. 🙂 “What do you want?” is only a good question when it and it’s answer flow fully from the will of God discovered through His Word and His Spirit as they live and work in your life.
Jesus asked that very question, “What do you want?”, several times and I think we can learn much from an interchange that takes place between he and a man named Bartimaeus. Let’s look at what he got and what he could have settled for.
Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (that is, the Son of Timaeus), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road. (Mark 10:46-52 NIV)
As I look at this text, and life, I see four ways that we could answer the question, “What do you want?”. Unfortunately, we often settle for one of the first three instead of living with the honesty and faith that was shown by Bartimaeus.
The first way that we often hear the question is “What do you Wish?“. When we hear this way, our response is often either very hesitant or very flippant. We’ve not seriously thought about what we want so our answers revolve around wishful thinking and dreams. The problem isn’t that the answer to this question is always wrong — the problem lies more in our attitude toward it. When we view what we want as just wishful thinking, we are too easily discouraged and give up. Bartimaeus had to step up beyond the “what do you wish” to overcome those who wanted him to just be quiet. Are you living with the “what do you wants” of your life simply as wishes that you give up on because others persuade you it will never happen?
Somewhat related, or at least often a by-product, of “what do you wish”, is “What do you Accept?“. This often comes after a heavy dose of realism and disappointment. We examine what we really want and what we really believe is possible and come up with a compromise answer of what we will accept. What we really want hasn’t happened, sounds so unlikely, or has been turned down so often, that we downgrade what we want and settle for what we will accept. Bartimaeus was determined to continue a pursuit of what he wanted regardless of how much pressure there may have been to accept less. After all, he had been heard . . . surely he raised awareness among the crowd of the plight of the blind . . . wasnt’ that enough? Is your life empty of the “what do you wants” because you’ve been convinced to settle for what you will accept?
Particularly for the realist or pragmatic person, the question, “What do you want”, is often at least mentally substituted with, “What do you Need?“. This takes the “what do you accept” to a basic level. Sometimes to want anything beyond the basic needs are seen, and taught, as selfish and even un-spiritual so we settle for what we need in spite of what we really want. Because begging and receiving alms was the basic means of survival for many first-century people with disabilities, Bartimaeus could have easily settled for a pay-off. There was a crowd that wanted him quiet. A crowd that was perhaps uncomfortable with him in their midst. If he wasn’t so set in what he really wanted, he could have easily changed attention to his immediate needs and perhaps gained the means to survive financially for a few more weeks at least. Have your eyes become so downcast in regards to what you want that you have begun to settle for another’s version of what you need?
If these other substitutes for the question, “What do you want?”, are empty and unsatisfying, what would be a good view of it? In considering Bartimaeus and the teachings of Jesus, I believe we give the best response when we hear the question, “What do you want? “, as, “What do you Treasure?“! That is often the reason we settle for what we Wish, Accept, or Need, because we haven’t learned what we really Treasure. Bartimaeus was bold enough to pursue Jesus through all opposition in order to state to Jesus, “what I really treasure is my sight!”. Jesus responds that this man’s faith has restored his sight — not faith in what seeing could do for him, faith that Jesus could, and would, make it happen. Jesus states that where our treasure is, there our hearts will be also. Could it be that you and I don’t pursue, or receive, what we want because we’ve settled for less or because what we treasure is not always the things of God?
I pray that you and I would hear Jesus ask us, “What do you want?”.
I pray that our response would move beyond what we wish, accept, or need so that we can receive the great treasure of life eternal and the treasure of abundant life that Jesus wants us to have now.
You see, when our hope and faith is in Jesus Christ and we go for what we treasure, we also get what we wish, what we accept, and what we need!